On October 11, 2021, our community lost a dear friend and true servant leader, Howard J Koepka. Howard was the recipient of our 2020 James L. Rhoden, Jr. Visionary Philanthropist Award, a recognition of the numerous efforts he led to provide much needed relief during the throes of COVID.
When Howard was running security for bands like Guns ‘n’ Roses, Van Halen, Metallica and Bon Jovi, he probably never imagined himself loading food boxes or directing hundreds of cars through a food distribution site. Like many, he received a calling. The calling wasn’t just to join the ministry, however, it was to help connect and mobilize people, businesses and churches to serve. He did everything from organizing community service days to serve the homeless, single moms, and foster children in greater Atlanta to building a school, church and orphanage in Haiti to leading disaster relief efforts in Puerto Rico.
Fortunately for Cobb, Howard joined Noonday Association of Churches in late 2017 and was focused on implementing the organization’s C4 Strategy not just with churches, but with communities. For Howard, this strategy – Care, Connect, Coach and Collaborate – is much more. It is who he was.
In late March, Cobb Community Foundation reached out to key individuals in Cobb’s non-profit community to open up the channels of communication between the various non-profit service areas. Those individuals were asked to organize and formalize communications within their own service area so they could share concerns, observations and needs not only among themselves, but also with the ‘representatives’ from other service areas. Howard Koepka was asked to be on point for the non-profits in the community providing food.
Howard hosted weekly calls sometimes with as many as 30 participants, all providing food somewhere in Cobb County. The result has been the identification of additional locations where food is needed and the implementation of mobile food distributions. Food, trucks, refrigerated trailers, forklifts, and even volunteers have all been shared among these organizations to maximize the number of people being served.
Howard was also the onsite coordinator for the Cobb Community Food Fleet, an initiative of Cobb Community Foundation in partnership with Noonday Association, the Atlanta Braves, and numerous other organizations that receive 3,500 to 4,500 boxes of food each week through the USDA’s Farmers to Families program. Four days a week, Howard was onsite wherever “The Fleet” is housed. That has included Truist Park, the backyard of Sweetwater Mission, Cobb Galleria Centre and Cobb Energy Centre. He did whatever was necessary to ensure that food can be received, safely stored and efficiently distributed throughout the county. His work with the Cobb Community Food Fleet resulted in 168,000 boxes of food, the equivalent of about 3.5 million meals, being distributed.
Howard’s work did not end there. He was physically on-site each week, including Saturdays, with various non-profits during their weekly food distribution, bringing volunteers and helping in whatever way is needed. He encouraged them, cheered them on and shared not what he is doing, but what the collective “we” are doing throughout social media, making the general community more aware of not only the needs, but also bringing attention to the organizations who are serving those needs. See his work first hand on Facebook by searching for #cobbcommunityfoodfleet.
Characteristically, when Howard was presented with the 2020 James L. Rhoden, Jr. Award for Visionary Philanthropy, he said “I will accept this, but I’m going to accept it on behalf of hundreds of people who have worked tirelessly this entire year to make it happen.”
The Howard Koepka Love Thy Neighbor Fund has been created at Cobb Community Foundation and all contributions to the fund will be distributed to charitable organizations selected by Howard’s family that honor his legacy through service to others.